Vincent Patrick, chronicler of fraudsters and gangsters, dies at 88 | ET REALITY


Vincent Patrick, an author and screenwriter who set up pins at a bowling alley, sold Bibles door-to-door and helped start a mechanical engineering company before finding critical success with his first novel, “The Pope of Greenwich Village,” at age 44, he died in October. .6 at his house in Manhattan. He was 88 years old.

The cause was complications from Lewy body dementia, his son Richard said.

The son of a Bronx pool hall owner and numbers runner, Mr. Patrick grew up in an environment dotted with hustlers, con artists and gangsters who would eventually become characters in his novels, which also included “Family Business” (1985 ) and “Smokescreen” (1999).

From his mannerisms and accent, Mr. Patrick seemed like a character he himself might have imagined. TO profile 1999 in the Los Angeles Times noted that “his voice has that booming underground accent, a sound that good actors try to emulate when playing retired cops or tough but fair patriarchs.”

“The Pope of Greenwich Village,” published in 1979, told the story of Charlie, the night manager of a down-on-his-luck Manhattan tavern, whose cousin Paulie drags him and a locksmith friend into a dangerous plot to open a safe. . filled with what turns out to be mafia money.

“The common thread is the sad state of their lives, their disenchantment and the curse of being dreamers,” Joe Flaherty wrote in a review in The New York Times. The novel, he added, “mines territory rarely found in fiction and, in the vernacular of its tough and cunning characters, offers a charming book.”

“Family Business,” the story of three generations of hustlers from an ethnically mixed New York family, also explored the psychological appeal of great fortune. Jessie McMullen, the con-artist grandfather; Vito, her son, who is dedicated to the wholesale meat trade; and Adam, his MIT-educated grandson, become involved in a risky caper to steal a plant cell from a California lab and sell it to a rival genetic engineering company.

“Mr. Patrick could have drawn these characters in broad strokes, concentrating on the heist, and still created a decent thriller,” Arthur Krystal wrote in The Times. “Instead, he chose to give them interesting lives and, in the cases of Vito and Adam, with the intelligence and doubts of men uncomfortable with their moral education”.

Mr. Patrick himself was quoted by The Times: “There is a coloring to their value systems that makes them attractive to a writer,” he said, “a willingness to take risks and an ability to face life head-on and fight with it.” “. and not retreat to a very safe position.”

Some critics were less kind about the film versions of both books, which Mr. Patrick himself adapted. “The Pope of Greenwich Village” (1984), starring Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts, was “less a story than a display of acting gestures,” wrote critic Vincent Canby in The Times.

Reviewing “Family Business” (1989), directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman and Matthew Broderick, Canby found a dearth of wit. He also found the idea that three physically different actors could be blood relatives exaggerated.

Still, Patrick understood the compromises necessary to make it in Hollywood, his son Richard said in a telephone interview. His father, he said, convinced producer Scott Rudin that he would not treat his novels as sacrosanct works of literature, telling him: “I have no qualms about cannibalizing my own work to bring it to the big screen.”

“The Pope of Greenwich Village,” published in 1979, told the story of a down-on-his-luck nightclub manager who becomes involved in a dangerous plot to open a safe full of what turns out to be mob money.Credit…Books with sea view

Vincent Francis Patrick was born on January 19, 1935 in the Bronx, the middle of three children of Vincent and Angela (Hunt) Patrick. His mother was a legal secretary. As a child, he dreamed of being a writer and wrote stories during his teenage years.

School, however, was another matter. He chafed at the strict discipline of the Catholic schools he attended and dropped out of Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx after his junior year. To make ends meet, she set up pins at a Bronx bowling alley before taking a job selling Bibles door-to-door in Bronx apartment buildings.

As reported in a 1999 performance In the story series hosted by Moth, he quit his job after watching his sales partner persuade a housewife to raid her 7-year-old daughter’s piggy bank for the $7 down payment on a fancy, gold-embossed Bible. leather. “I still didn’t know who she was,” she told the audience. “But I knew who it wasn’t.”

In 1954 he married Carole Unger and the couple had two children. With a family to support, Mr. Patrick earned his high school diploma and was able to attend New York University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He and a partner then founded a successful company in which he designed, among other things, an assembly line for coffins.

However, by his mid-30s, the call of a literary career had become too strong to ignore, so he left engineering to try writing professionally again. “He wasn’t really happy and he knew that if he didn’t start writing something, he wouldn’t write himself,” he told People magazine in 1979.

Patrick crafted a draft of his first book while working as a bartender at an Italian restaurant near Gramercy Park in Manhattan, where his son said he was inspired by rubbing shoulders with the Little Italy underworld types who frequented there.

While he was initially drawn to screenwriting as a means to adapt his own work, Richard Patrick said, it soon turned into a successful side career. Among other projects, he contributed to the screenplay for “The Devil’s Own” (1997), starring Harrison Ford as a police officer and Brad Pitt as a member of the Irish Republican Army hiding out on Staten Island, and wrote the two-part television film “Serve and protect” (1999).

He was also hired to write the first treatments for “Beverly Hills Police” and “The Godfather III” although both projects ended up in other hands.

In addition to his son Richard, Mr. Patrick is survived by his wife; another son, Glen; four grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

Hollywood, Patrick once said, was both a legendary land of opportunity and a trap. “Once you start,” he told the Los Angeles Times, “it’s hard to get out.” When discussing his third novel, “Smoke Screen,” a thriller about international terrorism and a deadly virus, he admitted that his work as a screenwriter had slowed down his literary production.

“Yes, this is my third novel in 20 years,” he said. “But I think when you look at it, from a purely artistic point of view, I’ve improved. And that’s because, Hollywood or not, I write every day. “It’s different writing, but it all comes down to the plot and the characters.”

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